Thoughts from our president

Summer has arrived and during June there were many severe storms with heavy rains here in the highlands. It is fantastic to see the transition of the trees that have leafed out in their different shades of green, wildflowers blooming everywhere in so many colors and wildlife mothers (birds and animals) raising a new generation, carrying on the life cycle as Mother Nature intends. 

It is hard to believe that it now been a year since we were celebrating the announcement by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project had been cancelled. Although cancelled, there is significantly more work to be done as Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC is in now in the process of pipeline restoration. The pipeline restoration is being monitored by the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) as a part of its continued activities. West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (WVHC) is a coalition member of ABRA.

Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards Project

An article in the May issue of The Highlands Voice announced that the Dolly Sods project was moving closer to action. See the great article in this month’s issue that tells all about what is happening.

Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance Conservation Hub Project

The September 2020 issue of the Highlands Voice article “The Conservation Hub: Strengthening Environmental Analysis and Improving Public Participation” told us that among the lessons learned from the recent fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project were the limitations that regulatory agencies often have in conducting in-depth analysis of a project’s impacts, particularly when multiple projects would produce cumulative impacts. Also, the complexity of many projects creates challenges for members of the public wishing to comment and participate as stakeholders in decision-making processes. In the article ABRA announcement of its new program called The Conservation Hub which will address these and other deficiencies of the permitting and regulatory processes that govern projects in the central Appalachian region.

WVHC submitted an application to the ABRA Conservation Hub Advisory Committee for a project to address the issue of Off-Road Vehicles/ All-Terrain Vehicles (ORVs/ATVs) use on public lands in West Virginia. West Virginia public lands are extremely important to West Virginians providing significant benefits to the public, our environment, and our economy and WVHC has long opposed ORVs/ATVs recreation on West Virginia public lands. The request is for the establishment of a Conservation Hub project concerning ORVs/ATVs recreation on our public lands to help to strengthen the environmental analysis, facilitate public participation in the process, enhance the project’s transparency, strengthen its accountability, and provide relevant information about the project to the legislators, regulatory agencies, and the public. The Advisory Committee has approved the project. 

Section 401 Water Quality Certification for Mountain Valley Pipeline

WVHC along with 13 other organizations signed on to a letter of comments to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water and Waste Management (WVDEP) stating that the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s (MVP) 401 Application fails to address significant impacts to the state’s water resources that will occur as a result of the project. Because of the failure, it stated that WVDEP must deny the application based on the fact that MVP cannot meet water quality standards and adverse impacts to water quality and aquatic resources are eminent if the construction is allowed to proceed. Further, the letter requests an antidegradation review and 401 Water Quality Certification for boring activities accompanied with additional comment periods.

On Monday, June 28 the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers extended the deadline for WVDEP to determine whether the water quality impact of constructing the MVP across waterbodies would be too negative to allow. The deadline is now November 29.

Bear Rocks/Allegheny Front Preserves Named 600th National Natural Landmark

The National Natural Landmark Program (NNL) has named the Bear Rocks and Allegheny Front Preserve as a National Natural Landmark. The Preserves, which total 1,204 acres, are owned by The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia, and became the 600th NNL designation.

The NNL Program recognizes and encourages the conservation of sites that contain outstanding biological and geological resources. Sites are designated by the Secretary of the Interior for their condition, illustrative character, rarity, diversity and value to science and education. Additional criteria states that potential sites for NNL designation must be one of the best examples of a type of biological community or geological feature in its bio physiographic province.

Congratulations to The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia.

Stargazing Backpacks for Those Interested in Night Sky Viewing

The Watoga Foundation, Green Bank Observatory and Pocahontas County Libraries and Visitors Centers have partnered to make stargazing backpacks for those interested in night sky viewing. 

Each backpack will contain a pair of 50×10 magnification binoculars, a tripod, two children’s books  [“There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars” and “Counting on Katherine,” the story of NASA mathematician and physics pioneer, Katherine Johnson,  from White Sulphur Springs], two guidebooks, “How to Explore the Night Sky” and “Simply Stargazing,” a compass, astronomy playing cards, a red light flashlight, a GBO notepad and various maps and instructions for finding the best places to view the night sky in Pocahontas County.

The backpacks are available at the county libraries will be loaned out in much the same way as they loan out books.

2021 continues to be another busy year for the Conservancy and the highlands of West Virginia and we will keep you informed, as events occur, through The Highlands Voice.